Reliving the years of melodrama and teen angst while acting as a nanny-cum-diversion is bad enough, but Temple is dismayed to discover her professional nemesis is in charge of PR for Teen Queen. And, even worse, her romance novelist aunt has flown in from New York to be a judge. Can redheaded Temple fool her nearest and least dearest with a black dye job to complement her new punk persona, Xoe Chloe Ozone?
Temple is on her own among twenty-eight unnatural blondes, who all say they'd kill to make the final cut and be named Teen Queen-and one of them might actually do it. Usually Temple has an ace or two up her sleeve, but Max Kinsella, Temple's ex-magician boyfriend, is AWOL plotting to infiltrate a sinister cabal of terrorist magicians, and neighbor-slash-sometime-love-interest Matt Devine is in Chicago, tracking down his shocking family roots.
Luckily, there's one alpha male Temple can always lean on: Midnight Louie, her black alley-cat roommate. Louie is already on the case, ensuring that all the "little dolls" under his care debut on national TV as more than lovely corpses.
About the Author
CAROLE NELSON DOUGLAS is the author of the bestselling Midnight Louie series, which includes Cat in a Neon Nightmare, Cat in a Midnight Choir, Cat In a Leopard Spot, and many more. She is also the author of the historical suspense series featuring Irene Adler, the only woman ever to have "outwitted" Sherlock Holmes. She resides in Fort Worth, Texas.
Read an Excerpt
Cat in a Hot Pink Pursuit
A Midnight Louie Mystery
By Carole Nelson Douglas
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2005 Carole Nelson Douglas
All rights reserved.
Homicide Lieutenant C. R. Molina's desk hosted two very different images.
One was a glossy 11-by-17-inch poster of a Barbie-doll-cute teen girl tricked out in industrial-strength amounts of hot pink.
The other was the same image, cut into jagged pieces that had been grafted onto photographed body parts of an actual Barbie doll.
The phrase "Teen Idol" on the first poster had morphed into "Twisted Sister," with a welter of blood-red spatters, on the second one.
"Sick," Molina said, unnecessarily.
They all stood gazing down on the twisted twin posters, neither of which was exactly wholesome. One was merely Extreme Fashion. The other had been refashioned into something freakishly violent.
"Being the mother of a newly teenaged daughter, finding this stuff strewn around a shopping mall parking lot makes me shudder," Molina said. "The slashed poster reminds me that some things are scarier than adolescent hormones."
"Mariah's thirteen already?" Detective Morrie Alch asked, surprised. He was comfortably into his mid-fifties and his lone daughter was grown, gone, and a mother herself.
How Molina envied him.
"Just turned," she said. "A month ago. I'm already considering a barbed-wire perimeter around the house. This is so sick."
"The Teen Idol concept," Detective Merry Su asked, "or the threatening poster?"
"Both." Molina shook her head. "So tell me about this Teen Idol thing."
"Reality TV hits Las Vegas," Su said. A petite, twenty-something, second-generation Asian American, Su looked ready to compete for a teen title herself.
"Can't prove it by me," Molina answered. "We've been hosting reality TV since the New Millennium Hotel went up five years ago."
"It's a quest to name a 'Tween and Teen Queen," Alch said.
"Two age groups, thirteen to fifteen and sixteen to nineteen," Su said.
"Got it. Teens-in-training and the full-media deal. Is this a singing competition?"
Being a closet vocalist herself, Molina had actually caught a few episodes of American Idol. She found the concept exploitive of the pathetic wannabes every art form attracts and a mockery of true talent by letting the public select winners for emotional reasons. Look who they felt most sorry for.
"More than that: talent of any kind, made-over looks and improved attitude." Su was always eager to overexplain. "This is the triathlon of reality shows."
Alch nodded at the unadulterated poster. "Yup. This girl here looks real athletic, all right. I bet it challenges her biceps to load on that amount of mascara and lipliner every day."
"'Lip-liner?'" Molina called him on it. "Still keeping up with the girly stuff, Morrie, even with the daughter long gone?"
"You haven't hit the bustier stage in your house, I bet. Hold on to your Kevlar vest."
Molina chuckled, imagining some busty contestant wearing a bulletproof vest in a glamour roll call on TV. Whoa. Maybe that would have a perverse attraction.
She tapped her forefinger on the oversize plastic bag encasing the altered poster, protecting it for forensic examination.
"We've got ... what? Dozens of teenage girl competitors from around the country pouring into a Las Vegas shopping mall in their Hello Kitty finery for auditions — and one sick puppy already announcing that he's out there waiting?"
"That's about it," Alch said. "No fingerprints. No way to trace the color copier to a local Kinko's."
"Kinko's are us," Su said.
"No kidding." Molina frowned. "You know the routine. Keep it quiet, keep an eye on the audition event. If we're lucky, the uniforms will find him before this ridiculous show launches. When?"
"This week's local auditions finish the selection process," Su said. "Then they narrow the field down to twenty-eight finalists in the two age groups and seclude them all in a foreclosed mansion on the West Side. For two weeks."
"Two weeks?" Molina didn't like the wide window of opportunity that much time afforded a pervert with a publicity addiction. "This could be the work of a kook as harmless as Aunt Agatha's elderberry wine. Or not. Keep on it."
Molina was still at her desk, with a different wallpaper of paperwork covering it, at seven thirty that evening when someone knocked on her ajar door.
No one knocked in a crimes-against-persons unit. She looked up — glared — from her paperwork. As the only woman supervisor, she never let down her guard.
A man entered as if he owned the joint.
Brown/brown. Five ten or eleven. A stranger who acted way too at home on this turf. On her turf. In her hard-won private office.
"Always." She waited. His clothes were casual but hip: blue jeans, black silk-blend tee, khaki linen jacket, big diver's watch face full of specialty minidials, and a sleek gold bracelet with a subtle air of South American drug lord. Couldn't see his shoes. Too bad. A man's shoes told as much about him as a woman's.
"You don't recognize me." He sat in the single hard-shelled chair in front of her desk, meant to discourage loiterers.
Recognize? No. He was way too hip for what usually showed up in police facilities, except for a five o'clock shadow too faint to be anything but a trendy shaving technique.
"You'll have to excuse me —" she began sardonically, still searching her memory banks.
"I consider that high praise."
"That you'll have to excuse me?"
"That you don't recognize me in civvies."
Okay. She ran a mental roster of uniforms, and came up blank. This was beginning to get annoying.
"I'm heading out," she informed him, slamming her desk drawers shut, picking up the black leather hobo bag she toted to and from work and nowhere out on the job.
"How about a drink en route?"
"How about an ID? And ... no."
He laughed then. "You're usually onto this stuff. Tough case on your desk?"
"They're all tough. What's your name?"
"You really don't recognize me?"
He cocked his head, and then she had him.
"All cleaned up."
"Gone Chamber of Commerce! To what do I owe —?"
"How about a drink on the way home? Some noncop bar."
"Personal police business."
She didn't like the way he drawled that out but checked her watch. Mariah had stayed after school tonight. Sock-hop committee at another student's house. Her baby daughter! Thinking about dancing with wolves. All harmless teenybopper stuff, hopefully. Staying at the Ruizes' for dinner until eight or so.
Dirty Larry, the Mr. Clean edition, waited. He watched her with an amusement that hinted he knew the pushes and pulls of her private life.
Bastard! Her vehemence, unjust, pulled her back from the brink. This was a colleague, after all. An undercover narc. Maybe he had something for her. He'd be used to private rendezvous in public places.
"Okay. Five minutes?"
He nodded, got up, and ebbed into the hall. She speed-dialed the Ruizes and got a commitment that they'd keep Mariah until ten, just in case.CHAPTER 2
In a city built on urban fantasy hotels with sprawls that rivaled the King Ranch, the Palms bucked the hotel-casino trend and lived up to its name. It was an off-Strip cylinder of gilded construction, like a tower of giant golden coins.
"I am not dressed for this," Molina said, meeting Dirty Larry at the Palms's side entrance, as agreed, their separate vehicles parked in whatever spot could be found.
"What are you dressed for?" He had an annoying knack for taking her simplest remark as a springboard for some deeper meaning. Dirty Larry the Existentialist?
"A crime scene," she said. "You going to deliver?"
"Not here. Not now. I'm off undercover." He looked around. "It's kinda nice to be escorted by an obvious cop. Like having a bodyguard."
"I'm that obvious?"
"Like you say, you're not dressed for the Palms."
"A psychologist could speculate that you want to get me off my own turf, at a disadvantage."
"Off your turf, right. Is that really a disadvantage?"
She shrugged and turned for the door, moving into a stream of tourists in tropical print shorts and shirts.
She knew what she was and she knew what she wore: low-heeled oxfords. Espresso-brown pantsuit. Oxford shirt, faintest baby blue, open at the collar. Semiautomatic in a paddle holster at the small of her back, steel blue. Talk about fashion coordination. Supermodels had nothing on a modern female cop.
They entered the usual jam-packed, ultra-air-conditioned smokehouse of a Vegas casino, an atmosphere lit by blinking slot machines that broadcast bling-bling bluster and the clatter of coins spilling into metal troughs.
In the craps area, Larry stopped to schmooze a pit boss who passed him some VIP comps. Comps papered the town, if you knew who to ask. The passes sent them to the head of a line that had formed even though the Ghost Bar had just opened, then onto an express elevator. Eerily, once aboard, all sound suddenly stopped, the casino's endless clatter replaced by the customary silence of half-pickled strangers packed together like kippered herrings in a tin.
The Ghost Bar perched fifty-five stories above all the hustle, a tourist attraction of the first water. Three of the four walls were glass and the view was jaw-dropping. Inside, the place was a 2001: A Space Odyssey sixties wet dream of blue neon, streamlined silver seating pieces, and lime green accents. Icy in color and exclusive in attitude.
Molina took it all in with the same cool distance she used at crime scenes. She checked out the VIP clientele already seated as well as the ambiance and spotted several vaguely familiar faces. It took a moment to realize that they were stars, actors and singers, not escapees from Most Wanted lists. Odd, the jolt of false familiarity you could get from a household face.
"What do you think of the place?" he asked.
"Playboy, Penthouse, circa nineteen sixty-five."
"You talking the magazines or improper pronouns?"
Posh or Mosh the Spice Girl wannabe did the waitress dip to lay two cocktail napkins on their sleek tabletop. Bowing to the power of the chichi, Molina surprised Dirty Larry, and herself, by ordering a pepper vodka martini. Larry ordered something called a Burning Bush.
Molina let her lifted eyebrows do the talking.
"Black Bush whiskey with peach, lime, crème de cassis, and a dash of cranberry juice for health."
"Gack," she said.
"It lives up to its name on the tastebuds. You can try a sip."
He nodded at the twelve-foot-high glass walls.
"On the balcony, you can stand on a Plexiglas rectangle and look down fifty-five stories, if heights don't make you nervous."
Molina stood, uncoiling her own impressive height, almost six feet. "Shall we dance?"
Seconds later they balanced on the ghostly plastic platform over nothing. A rectangle of aquamarine sparkled four thousand feet below, almost a mile, overrun by what looked like small brown bugs.
"The Skin Pool Lounge," he said.
"Not a glamorous name but a literal one?"
"Skinny dipping is only on Tuesday nights."
Tuesday was the weakest night for customers, hence flashing the flesh. "Only in Las Vegas."
They savored the glittering swath of the Strip's massive hotels, laid out like jewels on black velvet or, more apropos to their profession, a glitter-dusted body on an autopsy table.
Take that, T. S. Eliot, Molina thought. You and your "night anaesthetized like a patient on a table."
"Shamelessly hokey but a must-see," Larry said.
"Hokey should be shameless. I like it. That surprise you?"
"Yes and no. I've been to the Blue Dahlia. That's shamelessly hokey too."
She drew a breath, ready to retort, defend, deny. Instead she shrugged. "So?"
"So let's sit down and talk shop."
"Strange place for that."
Their cocktails were waiting in glassware as kooky as the retro-modern furniture. The classic triangular bowl of Molina's martini glass was supported by an off-center curve of crystal. His drink was served in a rectilinear tower of modernist glass.
He lifted it, not for a toast, but to offer a taste.
This was a way-too-early intimacy but Molina took him up on it. Dirty Larry had a challenging edge but she could match it. The bizarre ingredients produced a sizzling effect that explained the cheeky name that referenced both the religious and the obscene.
"So what was the Blue Dahlia crack for?" Molina asked after rinsing her palette with a swallow of clean, sharp vodka martini.
"Odd you should use that expression. Dirty Larry did a cocaine deal there once."
Molina frowned. He tended to refer to his undercover persona in the third person. Weird.
"A one-off," he went on." Nothing habitual. The client had a thing for you."
"People get their kicks where they can."
"And here I think I'm singing for dedicated vintage music lovers. Listen —"
"It's okay. My lips are sealed. Your pseudonymous singing habit is safe. Everything I do undercover is off the record unless it involves criminal charges."
"You're not undercover now."
"I take ... vacations. R and R. It messes your mind to play an undercover role too long. I'm doing accident investigations for a while."
"From drug traffic to traffic? Isn't that a bit tame?"
He nodded. "That's the idea. Nice quiet beat. After the fact. Fascinating, really. The evidence of a crash and burn but nobody there to threaten you or haunt you. Only evidence. Nice inert, cool evidence."
"People die on the streets from vehicular accidents too."
"But I'm not down in that pit with them. Biggest risk to undercover agents? Not gettin' fingered or found out. Not getting killed. Getting hooked."
"So why am I the receptacle of all this useful information from the opium den?"
"Just explaining where I'm coming from and going to."
"Going to. Which is?"
"One more big score. There's a funny ring operating. Dirty Larry can't get near it. I'm going to have to come back as someone else and try again. Meanwhile, I detox on Traffic Accident detail. But the instincts don't turn off."
"And I never bought your act the other night with the report on that Nadir guy. I can read upside down and backward in my game too, Lieutenant. That address pan out?"
"Why would you think you could con an undercover guy?"
"Because I had to."
He nodded. "Good reason. Why did you ever think you could keep Carmen a secret?"
"Because I want to."
They each sipped from their drinks, gazing at the spectacular 180-degree view, then back at each other.
"If you don't want something," she said finally, "and everybody does, why did you get me away from the office?"
"What's the worst I could do with what I know?"
"Blackmail? But I don't think so."
"No. Just exposure."
"I deny. I stop. Carmen gets paid in cash. She has no Social Security number. You could mess up my friends at the Blue Dahlia a little, but I could mess you up a whole lot more. And Carmen could fall off the planet. Officialdom would never notice."
"I would. Notice. I'd never do that, burn Carmen. She's a class act. I oughta know. Acts, that is."
"Then ... what do you want?"
"Nothing. Everything. Just to get the cards on the table."
Molina stared at the tiny circle of plastic cocktail table holding their Art Moderne drink glasses. "What cards? What table?"
"This one. Here. Now. Call it a social occasion with overtones of business."
She finally got it. "You think this is a date?"
"Yeah. I thought you knew."
Her jaw would have dropped for the second time that night, figuratively anyway, if she'd allowed it to. She looked away and found an irritatingly famous face in every direction. Holographic portraits imbued the place's few interior walls, both hung on and burned into the wall. The Ghost Bar was a highly desirable destination in Las Vegas, and Dirty Larry had gotten them first-row seats.
A frivolous woman would have been impressed.
"You've got a lot of nerve," she told him, not happy.
He grinned and knocked back a big swallow of Burning Bush. Maybe the name was also a political statement.
The line for the elevator when they left a few minutes later was even longer, snaking through the casino. Lustful eyes followed them, envying their leaving a place most of them would never get into this night or even by four A.M. the next morning when the Ghost Bar closed.
Dirty Larry had just shrugged when she beat him to the credit card draw and slapped her Visa down on the tiny table. Thirty bucks plus a high-rise tip for a view through Go Ask Alice's rabbit hole and a little atmosphere. That was the New Vegas, converted from cheap everything to entice gamblers to overpriced everything to entice tourists.
Excerpted from Cat in a Hot Pink Pursuit by Carole Nelson Douglas. Copyright © 2005 Carole Nelson Douglas. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
|Previously in Midnight Louie's Lives and Times ...||13|
|Chapter 1||Hello Kitty||17|
|Chapter 3||Swinging for It||30|
|Chapter 4||Male Call||37|
|Chapter 5||Mail Call||42|
|Chapter 6||Undercover Chick||45|
|Chapter 7||Bait Boy||52|
|Chapter 8||Separate Lies, Part II||56|
|Chapter 9||Bling-Bling Babies||61|
|Chapter 10||Louie Goes Ape||68|
|Chapter 11||Good Golly, Miss Goth Girl||70|
|Chapter 12||Turnabout Foul Play||78|
|Chapter 13||Macho Nachos||85|
|Chapter 14||Bad Daddy||91|
|Chapter 15||Sweet Tooth||96|
|Chapter 16||Monday Morning Coming Down||99|
|Chapter 17||Mr. Chaperon||103|
|Chapter 18||Pretty Putrid in Pink||108|
|Chapter 20||Whipped Scream||121|
|Chapter 21||Hanky Panky||127|
|Chapter 22||A Meeting of Minds||135|
|Chapter 23||Exercised to Death||138|
|Chapter 24||Great Big Beautiful Doll||142|
|Chapter 25||Close Encounters of the Weird Kind||146|
|Chapter 26||Midnight Attack||153|
|Chapter 27||Midnight Assignation||161|
|Chapter 28||Contingency Plan||165|
|Chapter 29||Home Sweet Harassment||177|
|Chapter 30||The Extent of the Law||180|
|Chapter 31||Kissing Cousins||189|
|Chapter 32||The Wig Is Up||194|
|Chapter 33||Upping the Auntie||201|
|Chapter 35||Diet of Worms||208|
|Chapter 36||Diet Drinks||218|
|Chapter 37||American Tragedy||224|
|Chapter 38||North into Nowhere||227|
|Chapter 39||Awful Unlawful||233|
|Chapter 40||American Idle||239|
|Chapter 41||Wolfram and Heart||245|
|Chapter 42||Feline Shepherd||249|
|Chapter 43||In Old Cold Type||253|
|Chapter 44||Old Tyme Revival||257|
|Chapter 45||Past Tense||260|
|Chapter 46||Closet Encounter of the Third Kind||266|
|Chapter 47||Filing Their Nails||272|
|Chapter 48||Recipe for Murder||279|
|Chapter 49||Conscentual Adults||284|
|Chapter 50||A Hasty Hand||289|
|Chapter 51||Heartfelt and Red-Handed||292|
|Chapter 52||Dress for Success||299|
|Chapter 54||No Glimpse of Stocking||311|
|Chapter 55||Shoe Biz||315|
|Chapter 56||As Blind as Bast||322|
|Chapter 57||The Past Is Prologue||325|
|Chapter 59||An Invitation She Can't Refuse||340|
|Chapter 60||Caught in the Crossfire||344|
|Chapter 61||The World His Oyster||355|
|Tailpiece: Midnight Louie, Paterfamilias||360|
|Carole Nelson Douglas Makes Room for Daddy||363|
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is the 17th book in the Midnight Louie series. There are two more still in my TBR pile.Temple's petite stature and youthful looks work in her favor for a change, as, at Lieutenant Molina's behest, she enters a Teen Idol contest--a reality show. Molina's daughter Mariah entered behind her mom's back, and there've been some creepy threats targeting the show, so Molina wants someone close by to keep an eye on Mariah. In exchange, she promises to lay off on her investigations of Max.Meanwhile, Matt Devine is off to Chicago at his mother's request, to find out information about his biological father's family, and Max is back undercover again.There's a theme in this book of family and connections--Molina struggles as a single mother of an adolescent, Temple ends up bonding with Mariah and--horrors!--understanding Molina, and mentoring Mariah.Mariah's unsuspecting (and unsuspected--by Mariah, at least) biological father is at the show as a bodyguard, and there's some tension there as those in the know try to keep him and Mariah apart and Molina worries about whether, when, and how she should tell the two about each other.And Matt's search for his relatives leads him to his father, and the resulting dilemmas, emotions, and lack of emotions.Max, too, has his emotional concerns as he worries about whether his current quest (for his surrogate father) will cost him his place in Temple's life.Even Midnight Louie joins the theme, admitting that Midnight Louise is his daughter.I suppose you could read Cat in a Hot Pink Pursuit as a stand-alone story. The mystery of who is targeting the teen contest and why, and the pursuit of the killer is complex enough and compelling enough to carry the story. But there's also so much emotional punch to this book, and I doubt you'd get the full effect of it without having read the previous books.
The ongoing mystery just keeps getting more and more mysterious as Midnight Louie keeps us entertained with each installment with his hard core PI attitude and his charm. Reading the series from the beginning is recommeneded.
Carole Nelson Douglas is great!
This edition to the series is an amusing and clever update of the english country-house mystery, but set in the hot-house environs of a contemporary closed-set reality series. Free-lance public relations expert and amateur sleuth Temple Barr must scheme to catch a killer who is threatening contestants on the 'Teen Queen' reality show filming in Las Vegas. Big fun, but also with serious ruminations on contemporary culture. The story provides a nice puzzle, but what really makes it go for me are the interesting and memorable characters.
In Las Vegas, anything goes and usually does. A new reality show is coming to town Teen Idol, a program that involves teens competing in two age groups to become queens of their respective divisions can be picked. Unknown to Lieutenant Carmen Molina of the Las Vegas Police Department, her daughter Mariah entered the teen competition and made the cut. Molina reluctantly allows her daughter to go for the two weeks in house event but worries because someone is mutilating the advertising posters and a girl was killed on the site where the audition occurred. --- Molina asks Temple Barr to go undercover and enter the contest as a teen so she can watch over Mariah; she agrees because Max is nowhere around and hasn¿t been in quite some time. Her friend Matt is in Chicago looking for some clue that will lead him to the identity of his biological father. A serious of mischievous threats culminates in the murder of the contest¿s dietician. Temple with the help of her feline companion Midnight Louis investigates to stop the killer from murdering others. --- Carole Nelson Douglas always keeps her series fresh by taking her characters in different directions and CAT IN A HOT PINK PURSUIT is no exception. For long time fans, secrets are finally revealed and the heroine makes a life alternating decision. The story is told in the third person point of view except when Midnight Louis is on stage and he gives his first hand perspective. This writing technique is deftly handled by Ms. Douglas so that this charming and entertaining mystery is a must read for people who like creative and riveting amateur sleuth tales told mostly by one with a tail.--- Harriet Klausner